- Young lock reflects on impressive introduction to Test rugby
- “Personal honours are nice, but it’s about trying to win as many games as I can in a white shirt” – Launchbury
Joe Launchbury is understandably proud of what he has achieved in an England shirt over the past year, but the young lock knows he cannot afford to rest on his laurels with the high standards demanded across the EPS senior squad.
Given the hugely influential nature of Lanchbury’s performances since coming on for Tom Palmer to make his Test debut during the 54-12 win over Fiji last November, it seems surreal to think his burgeoning international career is barely nine months old.
Photo: Getty Images
Indeed, the 22 year-old London Wasp was a key figure in a rather turbulent season under Stuart Lancaster, with the pair of contrasting record-breaking results – a 38-21 victory against New Zealand followed by the crushing 30-3 defeat to Wales at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium – still fresh in the memory.
Having had some time to take stock after the June tour to South America – a trip he highlights as being crucial in restoring some pride following the RBS 6 Nations – Launchbury admits England have learned a great deal.
“It was definitely a whirlwind year,” he said. “It was a very enjoyable too, and I have had a chance to look back over this summer and be quite proud, but now the season is kicking off again and we are back into hard work.
“As an international side you are constantly trying to learn and constantly trying to improve. The game against Wales was a realisation for us that we have got some work to do, but I felt when we went away to Argentina we were faced with a big challenge in a difficult, environment and played some good rugby.
“For me personally, that was something I really wanted to do. I was desperate to go to try and get some momentum back and get over the Wales defeat. As a team, we gelled really well and got on really well off the pitch.
Photo: Getty Images
“That showed on the pitch, too – we put in some good attacking performances against what was a pretty strong Argentinean side.”
Launchbury’s exceptional displays – marrying industry and athleticism in the second row in each of his 11 caps – earned him the Rugby Players’ Association player of the year award for 2012/3, an accolade voted for by each member of the Elite Player Squad.
But while acknowledging the prestige of his achievement, he explained that the collective philosophy of Lancaster’s England places little emphasis on individual feats.
“The best thing about this camp is that everybody genuinely does their best to make you feel comfortable, whether you have no caps or 50 caps. The culture that Stuart brings here is fantastic.
“[The RPA award] a massive honour so it’s hard not to take any notice of it because it sounds as if you are being dismissive. But personal goals are one thing – it’s about trying to win as many games as I can in a white shirt.”
Among the influx of fresh faces in the senior EPS are Matt Kvesic, Christian Wade, Marland Yarde and Christian Wade – all of whom featured alongside Launchbury in the 2011 Junior World Championship final defeat to New Zealand.
Former Wasps teammate Billy Vunipola is another to be promoted on the back of an impressive summer, and Launchbury is confident each of his peers can emulate his near-faultless transition to the top level.
Photo: Getty Images
“They are a talented bunch – you could see that when we all played under 20 rugby together. We should probably have gone one further and won the World Cup that year. We didn’t, but it’s great to see those familiar faces around here now. They have fitted in really well in training.
“I’ve played with Billy over the years too and he’s a massive ball-carrier and likes to make some big tackles as well. Off the pitch he’s a very chilled out, though.
“Competition is what you want in any team, anywhere. Definitely at international level it’s very helpful.
“Stuart talks about the two squads as one big one of 65 and that’s exactly what it is. There’s lots of competition throughout in every position with lots of youngsters putting pressure on the senior guys who have been there for a number of years.
“It’s very healthy, and can only push us in the right direction.”